Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This may not be the place to say it.....But i'll say it anyways

I found my future wife. Okay, maybe I didn't find her. But i found just one more prerequisite for her to gain my affection (if she is ever to come) . It's that she must love Flannery O'Connor.

Usually this blog is about contemporary issues. Well this post, is a 1940's and 50's issue. You see two weeks ago, I was reading a book that dedicated an entire chapter to Flannery. I was familiar with the name (and had thought She was a He up until that chapter), and saw that she was primarily a short-story author and a Christian who aims to find grace in the most wretched corners of existence.

I was sold.

The first short story I read was her most famous, "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

I read the story for a half hour.

I then literally sat after the story was over stunned for a good hour to two reflecting on the story and it's implications (I have since spent another three hours or so in various conversations about it).

Needless to say my life would never be the same. But every time I mention O'Connor to someone now, the one's who have read her go "duh!" As if they were living their entire existence under the assumption that the entire world had read Flannery because it was a prerequisite to ever live.

But no one told me, and thus I had to stumble through the first 24 years of existence in ignorance of her writing.

So I shout to you dear reader as to not offend my own ethic, if you have any analytical skills in regards to literature whatsoever, read Flannery O'Connor as soon as possible (note that I have been living off of Flannary in the few short stories that are available online. Most seem to be only available in print because of copyright law).

(And i apologize that this was a literature post on a blog that really doesn't focus on such a category at all).


Rebecca said...

Joel, you know it's good when you must ask yourself "How could I have called it living before I had read Flannery [or C.S. Lewis or insert any other particularly insightful writer]? You wouldn't want to go back, even if you could, so life-altering are these encounters! In my undergrad studies in English, there were whole classes that seemed to have been wash-outs at the time, except for one encounter with a writer such as Flannery.

I'm glad you've discovered her, too. You owe it to yourself to buy her collected works. Give yourself the option to write in the margins! See http://www.amazon.com/Flannery-OConnor-Collected-Everything-Converge/dp/0940450372/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283121229&sr=8-3


P.S. Have you read "The River"?

Joel Riley said...


Kent sent me an e-mail as a follow up to this post: Go to the library (those still exist?).

So I went and checked out her collected works (will buy once I get the proper funds to do so).

I quickly read through most of the stories in there (save a few as well as the two novels).

It was so much delight that in lieu of an unexpected but greatly appreciated month of august to do nothing but read O'connor, I also found myself motivated to write a short story (except I have no fiction writing experience whatsoever which can be a good thing in terms of I don't have many of the formal writing rules reigning as restrictions which seem to hamper the writing enthusiasm of most of my friends who are English Lit Majors. But at the same time, the growing pains are way more fierce and I know if I ever finish, the edits and rewrites will probably more painful than the first draft). Quickly I realized the short story would have to forfeit itself to give way to short story transforming into awkward novel, and I wrestle daily with the voice of the narrator in the book as I write on with a few road markers that I aiming to get there (the madness is getting between the road markers). I also have recently begun reading all the web resources suggested on the literary blogs from 90 & 9 for help (and the truth i read there hurts so good.) But really, flannery has changed my life.

I read The River. it was top 5. Absolutely adored the ending, and between the river and A good man is hard to find, both served as the primary inspirations of the story I am writing. Hint: Death amidst innocence.

I also read Parker's back which Kent recommended, also top 5. Rounding out my top 5 would be A good man is hard to find, everything that rises must converge (it was like reading about my own life), and a temple of the holy ghost. Honorable mention (and a very honorable mention at that): A circle in the fire.

Rebecca said...

I'm so envious of your month's sabbatical reading Flannery, although the extenuating circumstances allowing such a luxury might not be so enviable. I kicked off my summer reading with her collected works, but I'd only read a few stories and two essays before I had to return the book to the library.

Libraries? Oh, yes, those! But there's also Scribd if you don't mind reading online. I do, but I think I'll get over it, temporarily at least, and get back to Flannery by such means as are within my reach.

What do you find so compelling about Flannery's stories? Something that resonated in both "The River" and "A Temple of the Holy Ghost" was the spot-on characterization and point of view. It's limited omniscient so the child isn't narrating, but as readers we're seeing the world through his/her eyes. One metaphor particularly stood out to me in "The River": "Behind in the distance, the city rose like a cluster of warts on the side of the mountain." The child is identifying an unfamiliar view with something as close as the warts on his hand. And we see just what he sees. And I would say our own child-like perceptions are reawakened by this device, which may be why Flannery's violence works so well. When you're seeing the world from a child's (innocent) perspective, the violence appears even more a violation of the norm or of what ought to be. (Ref. "The Fiction Writer and His Country")

Here I go on one of my lit critic lectures! One of my lit profs (a huge Flannery fan) always held that the best critical response to a piece of lit or art is the creation of more art or literature. So here's to your creative pursuits in a Flannery vein. I hope we'll get to share in some of that arduous revision and in the eventual wealth that emerges from your pen--or is it a keyboard?